Sunday, June 29, 2008

Back to Les Fabriques

Since I was in Charlottesville, VA for Univ. of VA Freshman/Parent Orientation, I returned to Les Fabriques. This visit was more enjoyable and productive than my first visit. During this visit, the sales people were more friendly and responsive. They asked what I was looking for when I entered the store. When I gave my "I don't know … I'm waiting for something to speak to me" answer, they left me alone to browse and seemed to understand what I meant about fabric speaking to me. (Or … they thought I was crazy and left me alone out of fear.) When I'd decided what I wanted and was able to articulate it, a salesperson went to the back and brought out exactly what I had in mind - a piece of navy blue cotton twill soft enough for the partial elastic waist on back the pants. The fabrics in the store were arranged by color. Since I try to buy coordinating pieces together, this arrangement was helpful. All of the blue fabrics were together and it was easy to find the blue and white dotted fabric for the blouse. One of my issues during my previous visit was the prices. My selections were very reasonably priced - each was less than $10.00/yd. They still have the beautiful, expensive pieces, but this time, I was able to find something within my budget. This outfit, from the March 2008 issue of BWOF, has been on my mind since I first saw the issue. If I stick to my plan, I should have this outfit finished by the end of the summer and in time for the summer/fall transition.

Oh yeah, UVA's Freshman/Parent Orientation was also enjoyable and productive!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Marking Tools

Once, I ruined a blouse because the lines I made to guide decorative stitching did not wash out. I used colored chalk and a holder for that catastrophe. Ever since, I have been on a quest for the perfect marking tool. Air and water soluable markers make nice clear marks, but for some unknown reason, mine dry out rather quickly. Even though I'm careful to replace the cap, I've seldom had one that lasted more than two or three months. Chalk wheels are good, but it's hard to make small, precise marks with a wheel. Good old tracing paper and tracing wheel are fine for marks on the inside of garments - just in case the paper is wax-based and won't come out if you iron over the marks. And, I still have nightmares about Cidell's experience with orange wax chalk.

I read a tip about using Crayola erasable colored pencils to mark fabric and a fabric eraser to remove the marks. I've been using them quite successfully for several months. (NB Do not use the Twistables - the eraser makes a darker mark than the pencil. What a mess!) I like the ease and maneuverability of using a felt tip marker on fabric. Even though I was happy using erasable colored pencils, I tried washable markers. The marks were bold and visible, but were they truly washable?

I conducted a little experiment (on a day when I had too much time on my hands). I used a piece of gray cotton broadcloth and marked with the washable markers and erasable colored pencils. It was much easier to write with the markers - they glided over the fabric like a dream – just like writing on paper. The pencils dragged and skipped on the fabric causing gaps.

Then, I washed the cloth by hand using bar soap. The erasable colored pencil washed out almost completely. If you look carefully (click to enlarge), you can see traces of the purple marker still on the cloth. (I used a regular colored pencil to label the samples.)

The results of my experiment were not new or earth-shattering. Both the erasable pencil and the washable marker washed out without special laundering. My quest taught me there is no perfect marking tool. It's always best to test first. If I'm unsure about using any kind of marking tool, I use thread tracing.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finished: BWOF+SS08 - 414A Dress

This is my "Dress of Invisible Features". Everything I like about the design is invisible to the naked eye.

Pattern Description:
Shirtwaist dress with contrasting sleeve bands and hem band.

Pattern Sizing:
European 46 - 54

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Typical BWOF instructions

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like the design. I prefer tailored dresses over dressy dresses. I like the contrasting sleeve- and hem-bands, although my fabric selection didn't show off that contrast - the first invisible feature. If you look really closely at the photo, you'll notice the hem band and sleeve band have a subtle stripe. Another feature you can't see is the bib in the bodice. (Click smaller photo to enlarge) The edgestitch foot made it very easy to achieve even top stitching. Clipping the corners made it easy to achieve square corners. But, those details are lost in the fabric. You'd have to have your head in my bosom to notice them (and unless you are Denzel Washington, Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs or my next husband you're not going to get that close). Usually I wouldn't wear a dress with a seam at the waistline because it calls attention to my NDW Syndrome (No Discernable Waist). But this dress silhouette is boxy enough so I can get away with it. The pleats in the skirt give the illusion of a waist. The dress is shown with a belt in the magazine, but I may or may not try to find a belt. The skirt has in-seam pockets, but one would want those to be invisible.

Fabric Used:
"Linen-look" from JoAnn. Linen is my favorite fabric to sew, but because it wrinkles so much, it's not my favorite fabric to wear. This synthetic linen is just as easy to sew, but it isn't as breathable as the real thing. It's a good weight and works well as a dress fabric.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
The only change I made was to lengthen the bodice by one inch.

I wish I'd chosen fabrics with more contrast. The features that attracted me to the dress are nearly invisible because of my fabric selection. However, the dress is comfortable and I'm satisfied with the fit.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

First Self-Drafted Pattern

This is my first self-drafted pattern!
Click to enlarge.

This is a skirt pattern drafted for my daughter. Don't you just love all of those ~lines~ and everything! It really wasn't that difficult. I used Make Your Own Sewing Patterns by Rene Bergh. This book gives step-by-step directions for drawing each and every line. I'll have to retrace it to clean it up and remove the unnecessary construction lines. Of course, it looks good neatly drawn on paper. I'll have to make it up in muslin to really see if it works. Only four measurements were needed: waist, hips, finished length and hem circumference. I made an educated guess on the hem circumference measurement based on a skirt I'd just finished for Daughter.

This is the type of project I won't do from beginning to end. Now that I've drafted the front and back, I'll put it aside until I get muslin. Once the muslin is made, I'll probably put it aside again until I get the real fabric. This project is an experiment in pattern drafting. The goal is to make a garment from a self-drafted pattern, not necessarily to end up with a wearable garment. It's an added bonus if the skirt is wearable.

If this experiment is successful, I'd like to get my hands on a copy of Ms Stylebook. I believe those patterns are self-drafted rather than traced. I'm not sure if Ms Stylebook has plus size selections, but I'd like to look over a copy - just to see.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Next: Burda Plus Fashion SS08 Dress 414A

My next project is a BWOF shirtwaist dress. It's hard to tell from the photograph, but the color is not gray. It's a dusky, minty green "linen look". The stripe is for the contrast while the main body of the dress will be solid. I like this dress because it is boxy and has no real waist definition, like me. I really like the fabric, too. But it's a synthetic linen and not very breathable. There is a lot to be said for natural fibers.

I bought this fabric from JoAnn way back in March, I think. When I was in JoAnn again a few weeks later, the salesperson remembered me asked if I'd finished this dress. I was a little embarrassed that I hadn't sewn the fabric yet. And now, it's June and I'm finally getting to it. Apparently, this salesman doesn't know about stashes. Although my fabric collection is larger than it has ever been, in my heart, I don't consider myself a stasher. "Real stashers" don't consider me a stasher, either. But I still felt guilty for not using this fabric when the salesman asked about it. So I moved this project up in my queue, even though there are things I'd planned to do first. I'm such a wimp -- allowing myself to be pushed around by a salesperson.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shopping by the Seat of My Pants

It was embarrassing. Karen lives less than three miles from me and we’ve never shopped for fabric together. Cenetta came from Chicago and shopped with Karen! Karen shopped with Trina and Isabelle all the way in Parisin France … in Europe! And we couldn't overcome three miles?!?!?!? Well, we fixed that! We met to shop in our favorite places on Fabric Row. Turns out we both love Kincus Fabrics and PA Fabric Outlet.

I got fabric needed to coordinate with two pieces in my very small stash

The orange print piece was in danger of becoming a permanent Old Maid. I bought it in NYC last summer with a piece of wool. The colors worked together, but the print is sheer and summery and, for me, didn’t work with wool pants. So I bought the orange cotton to use as an underlining for the dress pictured (BWOF 05/2005 #133).

The solid green was an impulse purchase from JoAnn. I bought the batik to coordinate with that for a basic shirt and pants outfit for work (BWOF 03/2007 #128 & #130A).

Karen was good luck for me. Usually when I have something specific in mind, I don’t find it and I end up disappointed. But this trip was very successful. We both had our swatches and found what we were looking for. Sometimes, I like to have a fellow sewer along to validate (or veto) my decisions. I stayed within my budget and I have two new “assembly required” outfits. Including these purchases, I have enough fabric to keep me busy throughout the summer.

Thanks, Karen! It was fun!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Finished: Hip Skirt

Since the graduation, I've been so productive ! I finished my outfit, made this skirt for Daughter and drafted a skirt pattern (also for Daughter, but more on that later). All this, and I'm not even on vacation yet!!!

Pattern Description:
Circle skirt with wide waistband/yoke, intended to be worn on the hips.

Pattern Sizing:
8 - 22

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Were the instructions easy to follow?
These instructions were SO easy!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like the fact that this skirt can me made, traced, cut, sewn and hemmed, in an afternoon. One could probably make two in a day.

Fabric Used:
100% cotton

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
None, but some people may want to add length.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
This is definitely a sew again.

My poor, neglected daughter had nothing to wear to church because her selfish mom never sews for her (boo hoo). But, if I can get her to select more fabric, she will have one or two more of these easy skirts. I think it would be very cute with a contrasting yoke/waistband as illustrated on the pattern envelope. The pattern includes three other styles which I hope to make.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Next: Hip Skirt

Finally! I'm sewing something for my daughter that isn't a prom dress. I love sewing for my daughter, but she hasn't made it easy. If I'm to be honest, I'm making this skirt for my daughter by default. Several weeks ago, my brain went on vacation without me. While my brain was laying on the beach in Brazil, I convinced myself I was young enough wear a skirt made from an Amy Butler print. I selected this Hip Skirt from Favorite Things Patterns and I found an independent store that sold Amy Butler fabrics. Luckily, my brain and I reconnected and I realized this style skirt was not for me. It's a low rise skirt that falls from the hip. That's a style I never wear since I'm a rectangle body type and my hips are indistinguishable from my waist. So, I had no choice but to make the skirt for my daughter. It's easier sewing for her because her body is more typically proportioned. And now that school is out, DD might actually have time for fittings! I really like the print skirts young girls are wearing now and I'm glad I have someone for whom to make one. Now that I'm thinking clearly, I might be able to get away with a skirt suitable for a woman over 50 if I choose a less busy Amy Butler print. Thank God, I came to my senses before I embarrassed myself!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Finished: BWOF 07/04 #140 Blouse 03/06 #131 Pants

Pattern Description: Short sleeved blouse

Pattern Sizing: European 44 - 54

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Basically, yes. I made a few changes.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes. With my changes, this was a basic blouse with no special details, so I didn't need instructions. The original blouse has a cuff, but since I didn't include the cuff, I can't comment on the instructions for its construction.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I wanted a basic short sleeved blouse. This was the closest BWOF came to a simple blouse.

Fabric Used:
A cotton shirting with lycra. I'm not entirely happy with my fabric choice. I wish I'd chosen a more feminine looking stripe.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I omitted the cuff and shortened the sleeve. Most short sleeve pattern pieces have a straight hemline. The BWOF pattern piece for the sleeve had a curved hemline. I considered making a straight hemline, but ultimately decided to maintain the curve. Because of this curve, the finished sleeve hem appears parallel to the floor when worn.

The original blouse was more tunic length than blouse length. I didn't realize this until the blouse was constructed, so I simply chopped off about 3 inches. This alteration changed the hem from a shirttail to a straight hem.

This blouse came from the oldest BWOF in my collection. Fortunately, blouse styles have changed little in four years. BWOF is known for being fashion forward, but with just a few simple changes, this blouse became more classically styled.

Pattern Description: Fly front pants with back yoke

Pattern Sizing: European plus size: 44 - 52

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, exactly.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
This pattern has an interesting detail on the front pocket. The pocket has a self-fabric piping strip that inserts into a dart. As with many BWOF details, illustrated instructions would have made this detail easier to execute. I've learned to read the instructions several times and visualize the process.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
This design seemed perfectly suited for a twill, Docker รข„¢ style pair of pants.

Fabric Used:
Cotton twill. The fabric is a little stiff - like denim - but a few washings should solve that problem.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I omitted the patch pockets on the back. I intended replace the patch pockets with welt pockets (to replicate Docker ™ styling), but I forgot. I usually lengthen the crotch of BWOF pants. These are not low rise pants by any means. I'm just more comfortable with a higher, nerdy waist.

In addition to BWOF's fashion forward designs, they also have timeless, classic designs like these pants.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Good Times

It's been a wonderful week!

My daughter graduated from high school and delivered a fantastic salutatory address. Her graduation party was a success. My sister and young niece arrived safely and we had a fun day at the Philadelphia Zoo on Monday. My brother came for the graduation and brought some plants "even I can't kill" for my front yard.

I would love to post more pictures, but apparently I taught the lesson on Internet safety and anonymity too well. Although she has dozens of pictures on her face book page and her friends' face book pages, she doesn't want her picture on my blog because she "doesn't know those people." (Imagine … she is distrustful of the Online Sewing Buddies!) As a compromise, I've posted a picture of her delivering her speech. Her face is only partially visible, but the spirit of the occasion is captured.

But, even the best of times must come to an end and I have to get back to the boring, normal routine. Special occasions, like graduations, would be less special without the contrast of boring, normal routines.